Kevin Gausman (SP-SF) was stellar against the Pirates on Friday, as he allowed just 1 run on 5 hits while walking none and racking up a dozen strikeouts over 8 innings of work. He tossed 70 of his 96 pitches for strikes in the contest. The 30 year-old has carried his 2020 breakout into the new campaign, as he now owns a 1.84 ERA, 9.9 K/9, and 2 BB/9 through his first 8 starts (53.2 innings) on the year. Gausman's xFIP does come in at 3.14, which points to a .221 BABIP and 86% strand rate suppressing his ERA. While some correction to the mean should be expected in the ERA department, there is no doubting that Gausman has been good. His swinging-strike rate sits at a healthy 14% clip while he's kept the contact rate down at 71% (70% in 2020) while inducing grounders at a solid 46% clip. Opposing batters have mustered a 41% hard-hit rate against Gausman, so that does further highlight the likelihood that the ERA increases a bit going forward. He lines up for a start in Cincinnati next week.
Jake Arrieta (SP-CHC) returned from the IL (thumb) to earn a quality start against Detroit on Friday evening. He allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk while fanning just 1 over 6 innings of work. The runs came on a pair of solo homers and he tossed 47 of his 78 pitches for strikes in the contest. The 35 year-old now owns a 4.10 ERA, 7 K/9, and 3.1 BB/9 through his first 7 starts (37.1 innings) of the campaign. While that might seem useful enough for fantasy purposes, it does come with a 4.88 xFIP that points to a .248 BABIP and 81% strand rate suppressing his ERA a bit. Obviously, the lack of punchouts is a concern and Arrieta has been vulnerable to hard contact (41%) while opposing batters have made plenty of contact in general (81%) against him. The peripherals indicate that he's much more like the guy who played for Philadelphia in 2018-2020 than the guy who was an ace in Chicago in 2014-2017, so I would be wary of correction to the mean going forward. He does line up for a start at home against the Nationals next week.
David Peterson (SP-NYM) earned a quality start against the Rays on Friday as he gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 9 over 7.1 innings of work. He tossed 61 of his 93 pitches for strikes and coughed up a homer in the contest. The 25 year-old lefty now owns a 4.86 ERA, 11.1 K/9, and 3.5 BB/9 through his first 7 starts (33.1 innings) on the year. The ERA might be ugly, but one should note his 3.12 xFIP, which points to a suppressed 65% strand rate and inflated 27% HR/FB elevating his ERA. The longball has never really been an issue for him prior to this season, and Statcast indicates that opposing hitters haven't exactly been tearing the cover off the ball against him (37% hard-hit rate). Peterson, moreover, has induced grounders at a healthy 54% clip while his swinging-strike rate comes in at a solid 12%. He looks like someone who should enjoy some correction to the mean going forward, and that would make him fantasy relevant. He lines up for a turn in Atlanta next week, so it will be worth seeing what he does in that matchup.
Miguel Yajure (SP-PIT) was recalled to start against the Giants on Friday. He tossed 5 scoreless innings in which he allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk while fanning 4. He was pulled after making just 57 pitches, 35 of which he delivered for strikes. The start was the 23 year-old righty's second of the year, and it went much better than the first one, in which he allowed 4 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4 over 4.1 innings of work. His stuff is not overwhelming and Yajure has now logged just 4 starts and 3 relief appearances above High-A ball. In his minor-league career, he showed modest strikeout ability (a K/9 about 7.8-9.0) and solid control (BB/9 about 1.5-2.0), with an ability to induce outs via the grounder at a healthy clip (55% across 127.2 High-A innings back in 2019). Yajure has modest potential for fantasy purposes and should prove himself a bit before getting added to any rosters; but he is one to keep an eye on because he could provide value as a streamer or back-end type going forward in 2021.
Kris Bryant (3B-CHC) went 1-3 with a walk and a 2-run homer against Detroit on Friday. The 29 year-old is nicely rebounding from a lousy 2020 (.206 average, 4 dingers, 11 RBI, and 20 runs scored over 147 plate appearances), as he now owns a .309 average to go with 10 longballs, 24 RBI, and 28 runs scored across 144 plate appearances. His strikeout rate jumped a bit to 27% in 2020 but is down to 24% in 2021, which matches his career average in that department. But more notably, his hard contact is up to 43% per Statcast - he hasn't surpassed 40% since his rookie campaign back in 2015. Bryant, moreover, is smoking liners at a healthy 23% clip while making contact at a 77% rate that is just shy of his career high. His 26% HR/FB does seem due for correction to the mean as his career average there is just under 17%, with a career-high of 19% back in 2016. On the other hand, his .350 BABIP is not far off his .339 career average in that department, so the batting average shouldn't dip much going forward. Overall, Bryant's torrid start to the 2021 campaign is encouraging but his fantasy owners would be wise to expect the power output to taper a bit.
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